Range Riders-a false solution for predator-livestock conflicts

By as published on Wildlife News

“…these conservation groups conveniently ignore and fail to inform their membership and media of the multiple ways that livestock production harms wildlife, and ecosystems, no doubt while receiving big donations for their silence. They are, thus, directly culpable for helping to continue the livestock hegemony and destruction of our public lands.”

Private Cattle being herded onto public land at Antelope AS wild horses are being stampeded away ~ photo by Terry Fitch

Tom Sawyer would be proud of the “progressive” livestock producers who “love” predators.  These ranchers are continuously held up as a “win-win demonstrations” by collaborating so-called conservation groups who promote these operations as examples of how wildlife and ranching can co-exist.

You know the names, in part, because there are so few of them around the West that the same operations are continuously written up in the media and promoted by conservation groups-Malpai Borderlands group in Arizona and New Mexico, Lava Lake Land and Livestock Company in Idaho, JBarL in Montana’s Centennial Valley, and the Tom Miner Association adjacent to Yellowstone National Park.

The problem is that all these feel-good examples have two problems.

One they are the exceptions, not the rule. In all cases, they are livestock operations owned by wealthy individuals or those who have some connection to wealth. As a result, they can implement management practices that cannot be scaled up across the landscape. The Malpai had the support of the late Drum Hadley, Anheuser-Busch beer heir. Lava Lakes is owned by Brian and Kathleen Bean, who live in San Francisco where Brian is an investment banker. The B Bar Ranch in Tom Miner Basin is owned by Mary Ann Mott of Mott Applesauce fame. And the JBarL is owned by Peggy Dulany, heir to the Rockefeller fortune.

The sad thing about all these ranching operations is that the owners are wealthy enough that they don’t need to run livestock at all—likely it is a tax write off.  Indeed, if they were truly interested in helping wildlife instead of promoting the cowboy myth, they would volunteer to retire their public lands grazing allotments and contribute their vast fortunes towards retiring other grazing allotments.

Some of their holdings are substantial—the Bean’s Lava Lakes ranching operation includes 24,000 acres of private lands and controls over 900,000 acres of public lands allotments. Imagine if they retired their grazing allotments instead of running vast herds of sheep on them.

Instead, these “progressive” ranching operations are fawned upon by conservation organizations and receive numerous accolades and promotions of their livestock products (higher priced “grass fed beef and/or lamb). This includes groups like NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife (DOW), Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Montana Audubon, and the Nature Conservancy, among others.

All the while these conservation groups conveniently ignore and fail to inform their membership and media of the multiple ways that livestock production harms wildlife, and ecosystems, no doubt while receiving big donations for their silence. They are, thus, directly culpable for helping to continue the livestock hegemony and destruction of our public lands.

It would analogous to the American Cancer Society promoting filtered cigarettes arguing that they were slightly healthier than unfiltered smokes, and failing to acknowledge that cigarette smoking was a major cause of cancer.

To give an example of this collusion between ranchers and so-called conservation groups, I recently received an email about a “Range Rider” program at the Anderson Ranch in Tom Miner Basin (link here https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui=2&ik=e8f5b5d8e3&view=att&th=15b71e2eda289a5f&attid=0.1&disp=safe&realattid=f_j1jblcbx0&zw).

For a mere $600 you can ride a horse around in the mountains, and for dinner eat grass fed beef of animals you helped to keep out of the mouth of a wolf or grizzly.

You will learn how to harass predators like grizzlies and wolves so the ranchers can continue to run livestock on our public lands with a minimum of losses from predators.

In addition, there is the warm fuzzy feeling you’ll get knowing that, according to the ranch website, range riders help the ranch document predator losses so they can obtain more money from the state predator reimbursement program (again why do wealthy people need our tax dollars to maintain their ranching operations).

The people who fall for this gimmick no doubt believe they are saving predators. That is the message that supporting national organizations like NRDC and Defenders of Wildlife try to put forth.  Want to save wolves—come help harass public wildlife so that ranchers won’t kill them.

Unfortunately, the Anderson Ranch and supporting so called wildlife groups are perpetuating wildlife conflicts, not ultimately eliminating them.

Keep in mind that cattle and/or sheep grazing on public lands are consuming forage that would feed elk and other native wildlife which is the food base for native predators. Funny how TNC, GYC, DOW and NRDC and other groups never mention this as a cost of public lands livestock operations.

The mere presence of livestock socially displaces native wildlife like elk which avoid areas actively being grazed by domestic animals. And therefore, are pushed into less suitable habitat. Again, this harms the natural prey of predators like wolves and grizzlies. Again, no mention of this by the collaborating groups.

Nor do these so-called wildlife groups point out that you as a range rider are there to harass predators so someone’s private livestock (like the Anderson Ranch) can profit from public lands, while native predators like wolves and grizzlies are displaced from their natural habitat.

These groups also don’t mention the collateral damage from livestock. The spread of weeds. The soil compaction. The pollution of waterways from manure. The destruction of biocrusts. The spread of disease from domestic animals to wildlife. The trampling of riparian areas. The fences that block wildlife migration. The hay fields that require irrigation which drains our rivers and destroys aquatic ecosystems.

And I have yet to see any of these groups drawing the connection between livestock methane production and global warming.

Indeed, I would venture to bet that these so-called “wildlife friendly” ranch operations have these impacts—which overall are far worse for the ecological health of our public lands than the loss of an occasional wolf or bear—regrettable as that may be…(CONTINUED)


I-Team: Federal agency spends more than $100M to kill predatory animals

Wildlife Services is a welfare program for ranchers, and on top of all the other ones where the government comes in, they do aerial gunning, they use traps and snares…They use all kinds of horrible poisons to kill animals.”

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LAS VEGAS – DISCLAIMER: Some of the images in this story may be disturbing.

Nevada Lawmakers are debating a plan that would remove hundreds of thousands of dollars from a program that targets predators such as coyotes, mountain lions, and bears.  The money is raised from hunters when they obtain their licenses, and it goes into programs that kill predators which prey on trophy animals such as deer or big horn sheep.

But the state program is a drop in the bucket compared to a little known federal agency that spends more than $100 million in public funding per year to kill animals.

The I-Team discovered that Nevada is a bloody battleground for coyotes and other predators. An obscure federal agency called Wildlife Services, which was created in the late 1800’s, spends huge sums each year to shoot, trap, and poison predators, such as coyotes, foxes, lions, bears, and birds.

Of the 12 bloodiest counties in the west, three are in Nevada.  It is no coincidence that Elko, Humboldt, and White Pine counties are all ranching centers.

“Wildlife Services is a welfare program for ranchers, and on top of all the other ones where the government comes in, they do aerial gunning, they use traps and snares,” said Wendy Keefover, Humane Society of the U.S. “They use all kinds of horrible poisons to kill animals.”

Keefover is the author of a study which asserts that Wildlife Services spends up to $140 million to kill millions of animals. The 8 News NOW I-Team reached out to the agency to get the numbers, but it has been reluctant to reveal just how many animals die.

“I think Wildlife Services has a culture of killing,” Keefover said. “It’s going to be very hard for them to be truthful.”  There’s a culture of shoot, shovel and shut up in that agency.”

Keefover’s study helped inspire a lawsuit in federal court which challenged the legitimacy of the science behind predator control, and because Nevada is ground zero for wildlife services’ killing machine, the suit was filed in the state of Nevada.

“Nevada’s wildlife services budget is somewhere close to $3 million; nationally wildlife services kills millions of animals a year,” said Dr. Don Molde, a wildlife advocate.  “The number is three or four million or more.  They kill birds; they kill mammals. They kill all kinds of things.”

Molde became a central part of the court challenge.  He says the hatred of coyotes in particular is way out of whack.

“Because the coyote is so hated by the people who manage it, Dr. Molde said.  “The wildlife services department, ranchers who complain about coyotes — to me the animal is demonized far beyond what it deserves.”

Coyotes and mountain lions prey on livestock from time to time, but the government spends more money to kill the predators than what the livestock are worth. It pays an average of $700 to kill a coyote and thousands of dollars to hunt a mountain lion.

Some methods are unnecessarily cruel and often have the exact opposite effect of what was intended.

“Randomly killing coyotes produces the wrong kind of coyote and makes the problem they are trying to address even worse,” Dr. Molde said.  “So it’s utterly crazy.”

Coyotes go into reproductive overdrive when hunted down because of the constant pressure, today’s coyotes these days are bigger, stronger, and their range has spread across all of North America.

In addition to federal money spent to protect livestock, the state of Nevada has its own pot of public dollars to kill predators. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are collected from hunting licenses.

The state anti-predator programs are designed mainly to benefit hunters, eliminating predators that might be a threat to desirable trophy animals like deer and bighorn sheep…(CONTINUED)

Read More at: http://www.lasvegasnow.com/news/i-team-federal-agency-spends-more-than-100m-to-kill-predatory-animals/663861364